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Agonistic behavioural asymmetry in two species of montane lizard that exhibit elevational replacement


Senior, AF and Chapple, DG and Atkins, ZS and Clemann, N and Gardner, MG and While, GM and Wong, BBM, Agonistic behavioural asymmetry in two species of montane lizard that exhibit elevational replacement, Landscape Ecology, 36, (3) pp. 863-876. ISSN 0921-2973 (2021) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature 2021

DOI: doi:10.1007/s10980-020-01184-5


Context: In montane systems, closely related species tend to segregate spatially along elevational gradients. The role of biotic interactions, relative to species physiological requirements, in maintaining these distribution patterns is an important question in spatial ecology. Theory suggests that the role of interspecific competition can be significant in the maintenance of elevation replacement distributions. Despite this, there has been limited work investigating factors beyond thermophysiology in determining ranges in temperate montane species.

Objectives and methods: We investigated agonistic (i.e. aggressive) behaviour in response to a simulated intruder (conspecific versus heterospecific 3D printed models) in two sister species of temperate montane lizard, Liopholis guthega and L. montana, from south-eastern Australia. The two species have similar thermal tolerances at an area of distributional overlap between 1600 and 1700 m above sea level, above which L. montana is replaced by the high elevation specialist L. guthega.

Results: We found that response to intruder stimuli differed between the two species, with the high elevation L. guthega actively biting both conspecific and heterospecific models, whereas the lower elevation L. montana, never attacked either model type. Our findings provide evidence of asymmetric agonistic response in the two montane reptile species.

Conclusions: These findings have important implications for understanding how biological interactions and behaviour, in addition to thermo-physiological data, might mediate landscape scale distribution patterns both now and as environments change in the future. More broadly, our results are not consistent with the widespread idea that low elevation species will inevitably ‘push’ higher elevation species out, as global warming erodes species’ thermal envelopes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Australia, alpine zone, behaviour, climate change, reptile, skink
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:While, GM (Dr Geoff While)
ID Code:144516
Year Published:2021
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP150102900)
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2021-05-27
Last Modified:2021-06-03

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